Wisconsin Republicans are planning to amend the state’s two-year spending plan to add more prosecutor positions and lower property taxes, moves that could help ensure GOP support as the budget makes its way through the Legislature this week.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters ahead of his chamber’s scheduled floor vote Tuesday the changes also seek to safeguard the Republican-backed budget from Gov. Tony Evers' powerful line-item veto authority.
"The vast majority of what’s inside the amendment is our effort to line-item-veto-proof it as much as possible," the Rochester Republican said.
With the Assembly taking up the budget Tuesday afternoon, the Senate is poised to act on the document Wednesday, in addition to a host of other bills.
Among the changes in the GOP amendment are provisions to increase district attorney positions, a move that would add 34.95 positions and direct more funding toward a pay increase.
The Legislature's budget committee previously approved a 2% pay increase for prosecutors and criminal justice officials, as well as add additional positions. In all, the amendment would mean nearly 65 new prosecutor positions would be added to DA offices across the state.
Republicans are also seeking to allow Tesla to directly sell its electric vehicles, rather than going through a dealer, and allocate $5 million more in transportation aid to towns.
The changes would also include moves to drive down property taxes to a level lower than what they would be under Evers' plan, after a recent Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo showed the levels would increase the same amount under the GOP budget as they would through Evers' original proposal.
The memo showed that under both proposals, the increases on the median-valued home are expected to be $56 in 2019 and $48 in 2020. The amendment would instead decrease property taxes by an estimated $1 compared to the original plan in 2019 and $4 in 2020.
Republicans are also looking to change a provision surrounding a state study of mileage-based fees. The proposal would require the Department of Transportation to submit a recommendation to the state’s 16-member budget committee, which could then be approved or revised by the panel, rather than the full Legislature. The change would ensure approval by the full Legislature would be needed to create new fees based on how many miles vehicles traveled.
Meanwhile, Assembly Democrats lamented the exclusion of Evers’ proposal to accept the federal Medicaid expansion and slammed the budget document for “underfunding K-12” and failing to find a long-term funding solution for transportation.
But they stopped short of calling on Evers to veto the entire budget, with Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, saying earlier Tuesday he and his members had yet to see the changes Republicans are considering.
"I'm confident (and have been) from Day 1 that Gov. Evers is going to do what’s in the best interest of the citizens of Wisconsin," he said.
Eyes have been on GOP senators in the lead-up to the votes this week. With a 19-14 majority in the Senate, Republicans can only lose two of their members to still get the budget passed through their house without any Democratic support.
With Sens. Dave Craig and Steve Nass already pledging to oppose the plan as it was approved by the state’s budget committee, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, needs all 17 of the remaining Republicans to get it through his chamber.